When you become a parent, you suddenly embark on several careers for which you have had little or no training.
When you become a parent, you suddenly embark on several careers for which you have had little or no training. And you have no choice in the matter.
Sure, some parenting jobs are fun; tickle monster, a backup singer in their band, biscuit proprietor, actor (mainly superheroes in our house).
But others can be more of a challenge.
Here are a few.
Not only are you expected to create healthy, tasty meals, but your "customers" have extremely fickle taste buds. You create their favourite dish only to discover that within a week or mere days, they have decided it's now "gross."
I have always disliked cooking, so becoming a full-time chef to two rude and rowdy customers who eat in my kitchen every day is quite infuriating.
My actual chef friends may disagree, but I challenge them to find customers more fussy and irrational than my own children.
For example, my toddler was sent into a rage when he discovered I'd put his crumpet on a green plate instead of a pink one.
The following morning I presented him with a perfectly toasted crumpet on a pink plate only to be shouted at because it was in the centre of the plate and not slightly to the left, as he had wanted (but neglected to tell me). I like to think his crumpet placement is indicative of his political leanings, but it's possible he was just being demanding.
Crumpet dramas aside, they're both relatively good eaters and will try new things and even eat their vegetables if they're in the right mood. I've found that not every meal needs to be gourmet despite my intentions when I first started weaning them.
Sometimes it's fine to give them something simple (I try to throw something green on the plate, mainly to make myself feel better). And unlike actual chefs, if I somehow make the food into a face, the customers always give me a thumbs up.
My eldest said I was "just like a maid" once, which went down as well as you'd imagine. The cleaning is constant, especially the crumbs. Why are there so many crumbs? And lego strewed around, just waiting to inflict pain.
I do try and get the boys to do simple things to help, but it's an uphill struggle. Once I asked them to pick up their toys, and they claimed they couldn't reach. A toy. On the floor. And remember – they are way closer to the floor than I am.
Any parent of siblings will relate to this, but it also applies to cousins, friends, and random kids in the soft play. Your conflict resolution skills need to be elite as you attempt to navigate sharing disputes, full-blown physical fights, irrational arguments (he LOOKED at my toy), and more legitimate skirmishes.
Resolving conflict is something every child needs to learn, as parents have to be there to facilitate this. Sometimes that involves me physically separating the boys like an exasperated boxing referee and banishing them to their respective corners to cool down.
Photo courtesy of Lauren Nolan
There's a lot of information accessible to us now about early years development and child psychology. It's a really interesting subject and useful to read about (even if there are different schools of thought and contradictory findings). I think every parent should be mindful of how children think and feel.
However, I've found tips and advice that apply to some children won't work for all of them. After all, they are individual human beings, and you have to find a parenting style that suits you and your family.
My favourite piece of parenting psychology is this – don't be afraid to say sorry to your kids if you f*** up. It doesn't show weakness, quite the opposite, and shows them apologising is the right thing to do. And then try and do better next time.
I've discovered that I am terrible in an emergency, so it's just as well I went into pouring pints rather than, say, working in A&E.
Thankfully, I haven't had to be a medic for anything too serious thus far; but as a parent, you have to deal with a lot of vomit, head injuries, grazed knees, high temperatures, and mysterious tummy aches on the first day of school.
My prognosis is usually limited to Calpol, early nights, the occasional ice pack, and plenty of cuddles. The only truly serious incident I've experienced was when my toddler choked outside the school gates, really choked, and it was honestly the worst few moments of my life.
I slapped him on the back five or six times, hard, but couldn't dislodge the watermelon, and then I just froze in panic while he continued to grab at me, eyes wide, mouth open, no breath.
I really thought I was about to watch my two-year-old pass away. Luckily a nursery practitioner stepped in and did an abdominal thrust, and it popped out.
Once he'd calmed down and caught his breath, he then tried to pick the chunk of watermelon off the floor and finish it off. Which, I think, shows he was fine (watermelon is still his favourite fruit).
On the other hand, I continued shaking for about an hour, and I feel hot tears building every time I think about it. Anyway – yes, emergency medicine is a very real part of parenting.
People sometimes suggest that I should have been, or should be, a teacher. But I've always said that I don't have the patience, and nothing illustrated how true this is then our homeschooling experience. My wine intake quadrupled. I screamed into a pillow almost daily.
And despite a few laughs and the occasional moment of pride in having taught them something, I wasn't too fond of it and merrily handed him back to his teachers with a newfound sense of respect for the profession.
But homeschooling aside, teaching is a huge and inevitable part of being a parent. They learn nearly everything from us before school starts; how to smile, walk, use a toilet, talk, jump, and dress.
And even after they join a school, the teaching from home doesn't end. It never will – not really. They copy and watch everything we do, good and bad, drinking in everything they see. This is both terrifying and wonderful, and ultimately it's an opportunity.
We could teach them to be kind, inclusive, socially and environmentally conscious, challenge ideas, create, be respectful, and open to a world of experiences.
It might be the hardest job we do, but equally – the most important.